Vuyelwa is a bright young woman who received financial support over a number of years from the Caitlin Fund, in order to achieve her educational potential. In common with all of the young people who receive support from Gumboots, her personal circumstances were very difficult and, without financial assistance and mentoring, her talents would have gone to waste. Having obtained her degree and then last year completed her post-graduate Diploma in Media Studies, she beat some stiff opposition to be chosen for an internship with one of South Africa’s largest newspapers. Here is Vuyelwa’s story in her own words…..
“Sitting on the couch, looking around; everybody seemed really busy. The office looked exactly like I had seen it in movies; open-space and people typing.
After meeting and being introduced to the staff, I settled in at my desk and computer and waited for something to happen. It took a few hours, and then a colleague received information on a shooting. When I heard them talking, I jumped and asked to tag along.
We returned to the office and the colleague started writing the story. I asked to sit in and observe. I then gradually started assisting with sentence structure and I was soon typing a few sentences of my own, and THAT earned me a shared byline on the front page as a lead story the following day.
…that was my first day at work.
The following day, people were tapping me on the shoulder and congratulating me for having a front page story on my first day. I wasn’t really ecstatic about it because I knew I didn’t do much and that it wasn’t my story.
But I later learned to love seeing my name on the front page of the newspaper, and I’ve been on it three times to date, and the third time, it was my story, written by me alone; no shared bylines.
I’ve only been here for two and a half weeks.
Even when I am not on the front page, I am getting two and sometimes three bylines a day. I have since been transferred from the News to the Arts department, and I love Arts. But it hasn’t been as simple and easy as it may sound; making the front page and getting lots of bylines. At the beginning of my internship, it was the worst time of my life, I wished I had furthered my studies instead as I had received another study loan to do a Postgraduate Certificate in Education; I regretted taking the job.
As a person who has never had a formal job, who is fresh out of university and has zero working experience except for observing different news rooms, at the News department I had to produce two stories a day.
It may sound easy, but I had zero contacts, and those I made still did not contact me if anything happened or was happening. Let’s face it, would you prefer to contact someone you’ve worked with longer and has years of experience as a journalist, or would you contact a name you’ve never heard of before?
So I used to cry a lot (think I even lost weight), stress a lot and I hated my job. I dreaded waking up every day with no story to pitch at the diary meeting. So I then started pitching ideas that I had. With the help from family and friends, I was developing great stories. Some of my ideas were not used and it caused me a lot of stress.
Speaking to the new News editor one day, I told him my troubles and how I am still hanging on. He gave me advice which lifted my spirits a bit, but I never got to use his advice as I was soon transferred to the Arts department. And THAT saved my life as I had thought of applying to be an Au Pair in America or going back to school.
Arts is cool, we basically cover all forms of arts from visual, music, dancing and so on. I bring a lot of artists from the townships as it’s an area that the current Arts editor could not access. I am getting invites to shows and free movie tickets… so it’s great.
I am content with my job, won’t say I want to do this for the rest of my life however. I realized I like adventure, and sitting behind a desk at an office is not really my thing, unless I’m the CEO and I play darts and have a million dollar view, hahaha!
So I am planning on applying to teach English as a Foreign Language in China next year. I still have no idea what I’m going to do when I return to SA, but I think I deserve to be unsure once as my life has always been structured whether I liked it or not. I want to travel a lot before I get a permanent job; I want to see the world and meet new people. I told Margz , [Green, founder of the Caitlin Fund], I will one day visit her in England, and it would be nice to see and thank everyone who has helped me, face to face.
My future goals are to move to the suburbs. I’ve lived in the townships my whole life and I want a better life for my siblings and for myself. I know it will take a while before all my dreams come true, but I am working towards it. I would also like to take my siblings on a vacation somewhere nice and not expensive; maybe a get-away to a cabin with no friends, just us and nature, making memories and away from daily stress and pressures that surround us. And when I can afford it, a nice family vacation overseas (to Dubai or Mauritius haha!).
I would like to thank everybody who has donated and helped me throughout the years. I would like to say thank you to Margz and her friends, people who make regular donations, admin who have given their time freely (I know admin is not always the most pleasant thing to do), Gumboots and The Caitlin Fund. Your kindness helped a child in need, and your donations did not go to waste.”